About Energy Choice
What is energy choice?
Energy Choice allows you to comparison shop for natural gas just like you do for other goods and services. With Energy Choice, customers from large manufacturers to residential homeowners are able to shop for natural gas supply options from a diverse group of competitive retail suppliers certified by the PUCO. Although you buy your gas from a retail supplier under this program, Dominion Energy Ohio will continue to deliver your natural gas; respond to service and emergency needs; read your meter and provide customer service and billing.
Still have questions? Take a look at the FAQs below and for additional information on terms, please see our Glossary, also below.
What is the backstory?
The Energy Choice story is a process that has spanned decades and includes early legislation relating to federal deregulation of the natural gas market, the unbundling of the transportation and commodity services, and more recently the emerging competitive market between natural gas suppliers. Notable events in the evolution of Energy Choice are listed below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are my options for buying natural gas?1. Select a certified natural gas supplier and enroll in an Energy Choice Agreement with that supplier.
2. Join an Aggregation, or "group-buying," program if one is available to you.
3. Purchase gas under the Standard Choice Offer (residential customers only).
4. Choose to be assigned to purchase gas from a supplier at its Monthly Variable Rate (if applicable).
Who can participate in Energy Choice?
Participants must be Dominion Energy Ohio customers and they must be current with their payments (no past-due balances outside of a payment plan) to Dominion Energy Ohio in order to participate in the Energy Choice program. PIPP Plus and Graduate PIPP Plus customers are ineligible to participate in the Energy Choice program.
What are "Certified Natural Gas Suppliers"?
"Certified natural gas suppliers" are competitive retail natural gas suppliers that have been certified by the PUCO to participate in the Energy Choice program.
Do I have to choose a supplier?
Energy Choice is an opportunity — not a mandate. If you are eligible to participate in the Energy Choice program and do not choose a supplier, one will still be assigned to you. You will still receive the same reliable natural gas service, but you won’t be selecting from whom you buy the natural gas. Although customers are not required to shop, Dominion Energy Ohio encourages customers to review available options periodically to ensure they are making informed decisions about their natural gas costs.
Does my choice in supplier affect how my local distribution company treats me?
Absolutely not. Although you purchase your gas from a supplier, Dominion Energy Ohio will continue to deliver the natural gas to your home, respond to any emergencies, and provide customer service.
Why is the market price of natural gas so volatile?
There are many factors that influence the price of gas, including weather, the popularity of natural gas in homes and businesses, supply and demand, and competing fuels such as oil, coal, and renewable forms of energy.
What questions should I ask a Certified Natural Gas Supplier?
Before you make any changes to your Energy Agreement, please review our Questions to Ask a Supplier.
Once I've selected a Supplier, how do I enroll?
You may be able to enroll directly with the supplier by telephone, mail, fax, Internet or through a door-to-door representative. Whichever method is used, it is critical that you obtain a copy of your contract and keep it through the duration of your service contract. Once you've enrolled with a supplier, the supplier will notify Dominion Energy Ohio of the switch. We will then mail you a letter confirming your choice to purchase natural gas from a competitive retail natural gas supplier, the supplier chosen and the date the switch will become effective. You then have seven business days from the postmark date on that letter to cancel your contract without penalty. To cancel the contract you must contact Dominion Energy Ohio.
What happens when my current Energy Choice agreement ends?
One of two things will happen when your Energy Choice agreement ends:
You will need to review your contract terms and conditions and look for information about what happens at the end of the contract period and for any automatic renewal provisions. Automatic renewals are fairly common in supplier contracts. Keep in mind, your supplier is required to provide you with a notice by mail that your original contract is ending. In most instances, that notice will contain information about automatically renewing your contract. If the renewal notice contains no material changes, such as an increase in a fixed rate, a change from a fixed to a variable rate or any new fees, from your original contract and is for a period of six months or longer, the supplier is required to send you a notice about your new contract's expiration by mail at least 45 days before your original contract ends. If your contract does not have a renewal provision, you will be returned to Dominion Energy Ohio temporarily at the end of the contract period.
Return to Dominion Energy Ohio before moving to SCO/MVR
Customers without automatic renewal will return to the SSO temporarily (up to 2 billing periods). Former Energy Choice and Opt-In Aggregation customers that have not selected another Energy Choice or aggregation supplier, or have not elected SCO (if they are residential), will revert to a Monthly Variable Rate (MVR). The assignment to an MVR supplier is similar to the procedures established for assignment to an SCO supplier. Former Opt-Out Aggregation customers who have not selected an Energy Choice or aggregation supplier will revert back to SCO if they are a residential customer or to an MVR if they are a large volume or nonresidential customer.
Can I switch to another natural gas supplier at any time?
Yes. You can switch to another natural gas supplier at any time, but if you are receiving service under an Energy Choice contract or through an aggregation, there may be penalties for doing so. Depending on the supplier, you may be charged a cancellation fee to end your contract early. Check your contract to determine the amount of the fee. If you move directly from one natural gas supplier to another, the actual switch will not take place until the next billing cycle. At no time during the switch should you experience a disruption in your natural gas service. There is no termination fee to switch from the SCO or MVR to an Energy Choice Agreement with a selected supplier.
What are the advantages of local government aggregation?
The theory behind governmental aggregation is simple: by using the bulk purchasing power of communities or other buying groups, greater savings can be passed on to individual consumers. By joining together, consumers can also gain the ability to utilize a team of experienced professionals to negotiate for better prices and protections.
What is NOPEC?
Many communities in Northeast Ohio have formed an aggregation called the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC). NOPEC is the largest such aggregation in the United States. To participate with NOPEC, you must be a Dominion Energy Ohio customer up to date with your payments to Dominion Energy Ohio who lives in a NOPEC Gas Community. If you are with another supplier, compare your rate with NOPEC’s rate and consider any cancellation fee that you may be charged before changing to NOPEC’s aggregation program.
Don't the SCO and MVR rates discourage customers from shopping?
No; The SCO and MVR rates will change each month. They may be more, or less, than the price of gas a customer may find with a supplier or aggregation program. Plus, a supplier may be able to offer a fixed rate, which helps customers plan their gas costs.
How often will suppliers change with SCO?
The SCO customer's assigned default supplier changes every April due to Dominion Energy Ohio’s auction process. The SCO rate will transfer if the customer moves. However, when a customer's account closes and we issue a final bill, he or she will go through the SCO rotation again once service is restored, which means the customer may end up with the same, or a different, SCO supplier.
What are some ways of saving energy and money?
Some low-cost or no-cost ways to save energy and money include:
Adjust the Thermostat Temperature Settings: You can save as much as 1 percent for every degree you lower your thermostat.
Furnace Efficiency: Newer, higher-efficiency furnaces use less natural gas than older, less- efficient furnaces.
Home Insulation: Well-insulated homes use less natural gas for heating than poorly insulated homes.
Are there any programs that can help me pay the bill?
Yes, there are a number of programs that income-eligible residential customers can apply for including HEAP PIPP Plus and EnergyShare Customers can apply for HEAP and PIPP Plus by calling the Ohio Development Services Administration at 1-800-282-0880. To apply for EnergyShare, customers can contact their local Salvation Army.
How can I stop suppliers from contacting me regarding new offers?
Opting out of supplier lists can be performed by signing into Manage Your Account. Once you sign in, navigate to Edit Account Settings and select "Opt-In/Out of Supplier Lists". Customers who opt out of supplier lists will block their information from being released for Energy Choice and governmental aggregation solicitations. However, this does not prevent a supplier from getting the customer's information from another source or using information from a previous list. Phone numbers are not included on supplier lists.
Under Ohio law, persons, local governments, or organizations may band together into an aggregation, or buying group, to negotiate favorable rates for purchasing natural gas. Some potential advantages of aggregation may be the option of locking in a rate for a longer period of time, lower prices, or other benefits for group members.
Basic Service Charge
This charge recovers fixed cost operating expenses associated with delivering natural gas. It also includes a component that allows the utility to recover a return, or profit, on its investment in assets used to deliver natural gas for its shareholders, as approved by the PUCO.
The price for the natural gas itself or simply, gas cost.
Contract Terms and Conditions
The details of an Energy Choice agreement between a customer and supplier that specifies length or duration of the contract (i.e. monthly, yearly, multiple-year), any associated fees, and other important information.
As shown on the PUCO's Apples to Apples chart, a current offer comprises the suppliers’ current commodity price, exclusive of sales tax, the local utility transportation (usage-based) charge, and customer service charges. Commodity options may be a fixed, variable, or stable rate plan.
Any person or entity that is an end user of natural gas and is connected to any part of the delivery system within a natural gas utility service territory within this state.
Removal or relaxation of regulations or controls governing business or service operations like utilities. Deregulation allows customers to purchase gas from retail suppliers other than the regulated public utility that delivers the gas.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
An independent federal agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity.
Fixed Rate Plan
A per-unit price for the natural gas commodity that remains constant for the contracted term. Although the per- unit price is fixed, the total charge will vary depending on the amount of gas consumed.
Gross Receipts Tax
As a public utility, Dominion Energy Ohio pays a tax based on its gross receipts for the privilege of doing business in the State of Ohio. This tax is passed through to customers as a charge calculated as 4.6044% of total Dominion Energy Ohio charges billed. Gross receipts tax is not charged on the natural gas commodity purchased from retail suppliers through the Energy Choice program or on warranty products. Federal government accounts are not subject to the gross receipts tax.
HEAP is a federally funded program administered by the Ohio Development Service Administration. It is designed to help eligible low-income Ohioans meet the high costs of home heating. HEAP makes a one-time payment for most PUCO- regulated utility customers reflecting their usage for the current winter heating season.
Large Volume Customer
A Dominion Energy Ohio customer who uses 3,000 MCF or more of natural gas per year.
Local Distribution Company (LDC)
The local natural gas distribution utility, regulated by the PUCO, that delivers natural gas to your home or business.
An abbreviation for one thousand cubic feet, a unit used to measure natural gas usage. This is the unit of measure used by Dominion Energy Ohio.
Monthly Variable Rate
Cost of default natural gas for residential customers whose Energy Choice or opt-in governmental aggregation contract has expired, as well as for large volume and nonresidential customers. Under this rate, Dominion Energy Ohio assigns a participating supplier to provide gas supply at that supplier's prevailing rate.
Many communities in Northeast Ohio have formed an aggregation called the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC). NOPEC is the largest such aggregation in the United States.
The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) is a public market on which commodities, including natural gas, are bought and sold. Buyers purchase futures contracts on the NYMEX for natural gas that will be delivered at a later date. The month-end settlement price for the coming month's futures contract is the basis for the SSO and SCO rates.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel represents the interests of Ohio's residential utility customers, including in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Ohio Consumers Counsel represents the interests of Ohio's residential utility customers in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) is a low-income payment assistance plan sponsored by Dominion Energy Ohio in accordance with PUCO rules. This program is administered by the Ohio Development Services Administration.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) affects nearly every household in Ohio. The PUCO regulates providers of all kinds of utility services, including electric and natural gas companies.
Residential Gas Service
A natural gas service provided to any location where the use is primarily of a domestic nature.
When natural gas is purchased from a competitive retail natural gas supplier, the natural gas is subject to Ohio sales or use tax. Because sales tax rates vary by county throughout Ohio, sales tax is not included in the supplier's total rate on the PUCO's Apples to Apples chart.
Standard Choice Offer. A commodity service for which the regulated monthly rate comprises the NYMEX settlement price plus a Retail Price Adjustment adder that is determined through an annual auction process to secure gas supplies. The SCO is available to residential customers who are eligible to participate in Energy Choice but have not chosen a retail natural gas supplier. The SCO rate changes monthly due to fluctuations in the price of natural gas on the NYMEX.
Small Commercial Customer
A commercial customer, but not mercantile customer (as defined under division (L) of section 4929.01 of the Revised Code). This is a customer that consumes less than 500 MCF of natural gas per year for other than residential use.
Standard Service Offer. Dominion Energy Ohio’s Standard Service Offer commodity service is provided to Energy Choice-ineligible customers and certain transitional customers. The SSO natural gas rate, like the SCO, is based on the NYMEX settlement price plus the Retail Price Adjustment determined in the annual auction and changes monthly due to fluctuations in the price of natural gas on the NYMEX.
The company you choose to provide the supply portion of your natural gas service. You buy your gas from this company and Dominion Energy Ohio delivers it to your home or business.
Includes the natural gas commodity price plus the usage-based charges.
The usage-based portion of your bill covers the operating costs associated with natural gas distribution. This portion is billed separately from the gas cost commodity portion of your bill for Choice-eligible customers. It includes a base rate, excise tax, Percentage of Income Payment Plan rider, uncollectible expense rider, competitive retail natural gas service surcredit rider, and a migration rider. This rate changes at least quarterly as the various components are revised with approval by the PUCO.
The portion of your bill that shows a 13-month comparison of natural gas usage.
A natural gas commodity price per unit MCF that fluctuates within the contracted term.
Background and History
1978 - Natural Gas Policy Act
From 1938 to 1978, the Federal government regulated only the interstate natural gas market. The Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 (NGPA) granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority over intrastate as well as interstate natural gas production. After market-distorting price ceilings for natural gas were eliminated, increased natural gas production resulted in a continuation of a downward price trend.
1985 - FERC Order 436
This order enabled interstate pipeline companies to offer transportation services separately from the sale of the natural gas commodity, a process known as “unbundling.” This meant that gas utilities and end use customers could for the first time buy gas directly from producers or other parties.
1989 - Natural Gas Wellhead Decontrol Act
This act required all remaining price ceilings to expire by 1993 rather than the year 2000, as initially set by the NGPA in 1978. Congress expected that this act would make wellhead prices for natural gas more accurately reflect market conditions and remove unintended price distortions left over from the NGPA.
1992 - FERC Order 636
This order required interstate pipeline companies to separate sales and transportation services completely to ensure that transportation services were equal in quality, whether the gas was purchased from the pipeline company itself, a marketer, or a producer. This gave all natural gas sellers equal footing in moving natural gas from the wellhead to the end user and increased competition under a more flexible market.
1997 - Energy Choice Pilot Begins
After years of offering transportation service to large industrial and commercial customers, The East Ohio Gas Company became one of the first gas utilities in the nation to allow residential and small commercial customers to purchase their natural gas directly from a marketer. Under its 10-county pilot program, East Ohio allowed those customers to purchase natural gas directly from suppliers at a rate other than the regulated Gas Cost Recovery (GCR) rate overseen by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). About 33,000 customers eventually participated in the pilot Energy Choice program.
2000 - System-wide Energy Choice Arrives
In October 2000, The East Ohio Gas Company expanded its Energy Choice pilot program to all eligible customers throughout its entire service territory. In each of the first three months, about 100,000 out of East Ohio’s 1.2 million customers elected to purchase their natural gas from a marketer, making it one of the largest such programs in the country at the time.
2002 - Governmental Aggregation Begins
The signing of House Bill 9 introduced two major impacts to the natural gas market. The first was that all retail natural gas suppliers would need to be certified by the PUCO to conduct business in Ohio and the second was authorization of governmental aggregation for competitive retail natural gas service. This meant that consumers could shop with confidence and even assemble together as a community or larger buying group to solicit a price lower than what they might receive as individuals.
2005 - DEO Files to Restructure Its Commodity Service
In order to better recognize Dominion Energy Ohio’s role as a distribution company and to help foster a more competitive market by expanding retail choice options, Dominion Energy Ohio filed a transitional plan in which the non-market-responsive Gas Cost Recovery Rate would be phased out and a new Standard Service Offer rate would be implemented. This not only encouraged suppliers to devote greater effort to compete in the market, but also helped to maximize the pool of customers receiving the commodity service from natural gas suppliers.
2006 - The Introduction of SSO
After approval from the PUCO, Dominion Energy Ohio replaced its GCR rate with the Standard Service Offer (SSO) rate effective October 12, 2006. Under the new SSO structure, Dominion Energy Ohio conducted an annual auction designed to establish a competitive rate for natural gas sold to those customers that did not participate in the Energy Choice program and was the first natural gas distribution company in the nation to introduce such a program. Dominion Energy Ohio continues to sell gas purchased in this manner to residential customers who are not eligible to participate in the Energy Choice program. The SSO rate changes every month and is based on the month-end closing price of natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), plus the Retail Price Adjustment established in the auction.
2009 - The Introduction of SCO and MVR
As part of its continuing progression toward more competitive natural gas commodity service and once again being the first natural gas distribution company in the nation to do so, Dominion Energy Ohio introduced the auction-based variable rate option behind its Standard Service Offer to include choice eligible customers. Dominion Energy Ohio gained PUCO approval to introduce Standard Choice Offer (SCO) and Monthly Variable Rate (MVR) commodity service. Under the SCO program, Dominion Energy Ohio continues to conduct an annual auction overseen by the PUCO to determine a Retail Price Adjustment that is added to the NYMEX price in the same manner as SSO service. Customers who are eligible to participate in the Energy Choice program but have not chosen a supplier are assigned to a supplier providing SCO service to help them become accustomed to participating in the program. MVR service, which is not regulated by the PUCO but is capped by a supplier’s lowest competitive monthly variable rate posted on the PUCO’s Apples-to-Apples chart, is available to those customers who previously participated in the Energy Choice program and whose supplier agreement was terminated without their selection of a new supplier. Dominion Energy Ohio randomly assigns those customers to a new supplier at that supplier’s MVR rate, unless the customer specifically requests an SCO rate.
2013 - SCO Exit for Large Volume and Non-Residential Accounts
In its most recent move to establish an even more competitive market, Dominion Energy Ohio became the first natural gas distribution company in the state of Ohio to request and receive PUCO approval to cease offering commodity service to Large Volume and Non-Residential customers. (DEO will continue to deliver the gas purchased from suppliers.) While still able to participate in the Energy Choice program by selecting from available rate offers of certified suppliers, those customers are no longer eligible for SCO service. If they do not choose a supplier, Dominion Energy Ohio assigns them at random to an MVR supplier at that supplier’s prevailing MVR. Dominion Energy Ohio will evaluate the success of this “exit” before deciding whether to seek PUCO approval to expand it to residential customers.